I turned 60 on Monday, September 29 — just three weeks ago. I didn’t write about it right away because I thought it was no big deal — at least that’s what I told myself. But in retrospect, I didn’t write about it right away because, at some level, it bothers me a lot.
Happily, there was no big party to mark the “milestone” birthday. I’d made it clear to Maria that I didn’t want any elaborate celebration, so we had a nice quiet dinner and an ice cream cake at home. I got some nice gifts — money to put toward a 12-string guitar, a gift card to my new favorite bait and tackle store in Florida, and a nice cotton tropical-weight sweater.
There was only one jokey, old-guy gift: a mug with the legend on the outside, “I’M SORRY YOU’RE OLD,” and inside the rim, as you raise it to your lips, you see the words, “THAT’S ALL.” Better than the basket of Depends, M&M’s masquerading as Viagra, laxatives and antacids I’d seen other 60 year olds get on their birthdays.
There was also a greeting card showing a man (presumably me) reclining on a chair atop a high bluff with a small dog at his side. He’s dangling his fishing line in the water below, happily oblivious to the fact that he’s about to hook into a fish longer than the man himself. The dark part of me whispered that this could be a bright metaphor for something horrific — it’s the universe telling you, via a plastic fish decal on a Hallmark card, that you’ll be very sorry you put off that colonoscopy.
“You won’t be the little guy smiling on the boat much longer when you reel in that bad news,” said the gremlin, laughing. “At your age anything’s possible.”
The happy side of me: “At any age anything’s possible; you never know.”
Gremlin: “But at ‘your age,’ lots of bad things are a lot more likely than they used to be.”
Tough to argue with that …
For some reason, the arithmetic in your 60s feels fundamentally different than in your 50s. Then (a mere three weeks ago), being really old (which in my mind means in your 80s) was 30 years away, more or less. Now it’s only 20 years.
That’s scary in itself because time telescopes so much as you age. The distance from 20 to 40 was huge — I turned from a kid with no direction or shape to my life into a lawyer with a career, and a young family, and a house in the suburbs. From 40 to 60 was a radical evolution too — the kids grew up, left home (mostly), we acquired a vacation condo in Florida as the southern counterpart to our house at the Jersey Shore, and I retired.
But both of those significant chunks of my life, in retrospect, flew past in the blink of an old guy’s eye, to paraphrase Bruce. What major changes do the next 20 years hold (if you’ve even got 20 more in you, whispers the gremlin)? Who knows?
What worries me more is how quickly, in retrospect, will they have passed? But the happy side of me ultimately prevails: worrying about the view, in retrospect, is living ass-backwards. Look ahead, live in the moment, and barrel forward with gusto.
Drive this car as if you’d stolen it. And it you fly headlong off a cliff, with the gremlin shouting, “I told you so!” as you fall, at least you’ll have had a hell of a good time.